You’ve probably all heard the old saying that “Driving a slow car fast is more fun than driving a fast car slow.” But have you ever actually put it to the test? We have, and it’s true!
Last week, Fiat invited us to take part in their one-day Fiat Abarth Track Experience at New Jersey Motorsports Park, with instruction from the folks at Skip Barber Racing School. While I’m no stranger to driving schools (or track days), I always welcome the chance to improve my driving skills, and I was excited to see how the Fiat 500 Abarth and Fiat 124 Spider Abarth would perform on the track. Turns out, they’re a ton of fun.
Our day started with some classroom instruction, where we went over some basic car control fundamentals, talking about oversteer and understeer, using weight transfer to prevent that, finding the right racing lines as you come into a corner, and more.
And with that, we headed outside to put some of those theories into practice, starting off with the skid pad. For this exercise, we were driving the 2019 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth, which has a mighty 164 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque (and sounds pretty sweet to boot, thanks to the new Record Monza exhaust). The object here? Induce oversteer by giving the car too much gas when cornering, and then attempt to recover from it.
If you live in an area that gets snow, you have likely found yourself in this scenario before. So what should you do? First off, you’ll want to quickly counter steer in the opposite direction of the skid, while gently reducing your speed by easing off the gas. Once you feel the car get back on track, you can steer back in the direction you’re headed and give the car some gas. There is definitely an art to it, but once you get the hang of it, you’re good to go.
We were let loose on a wet “track” and prompted to break traction again and again, and then recover from it. For me, this was way too much fun, and I could have spent all day here. For others, it was a bit frustrating, as there’s a bit of a learning curve. But everyone walked away better for having done it, and that’s the whole point of driver instruction like this.
After everyone got their fill of the skid pad, we moved over to the autocross, where we got to hop behind the wheel of the 2019 Fiat 500 Abarth (which puts out 160 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque), along with the aforementioned Fiat 124 Spider Abarth.
If you’ve ever been autocrossing before, you know horsepower doesn’t really come into play here, and that too much power could actually be a hinderance. Instead, it’s all about finding those perfect lines and apexes to get around the course as efficiently as possible, and using weight transfer to your advantage.
The Fiat 500 Abarth is probably one of the greatest cars for autocrossing, as it’s crazy small (easier to thread through the cones), and you can hammer the brakes coming into a turn and rotate the car with ease. The Fiat 124 Spider Abarth was equally fun in the course, but if they were keeping time, I’d venture to guess that I was putting down faster lap times in the 500.
After lunch, we donned our snazzy racing suits and headed out onto Thunderbolt (a 2.25 mile road course with 12 turns) for some lead-follow fun, where we’d be able to put everything we learned in the morning sessions into practice at full speed. I started off in the Fiat 124 Spider Abarth, switching over to the Fiat 500 Abarth in the following session.
SO. MUCH. FUN.
Now I’ll be honest, having driven this track previously in two 450+ horsepower cars, I was not sure how this was going to compare with a 300HP deficit. But I never found myself lacking for power. On the long straights, I eventually got up to 90mph (which felt plenty fast), and I was able to take corners faster than expected given the cars great handling dynamics. And on the one occasion where I came into a corner a little too hot, it was easy to recover.
Afterwards, I got to do a quick hot lap with one of the Skip Barber instructors, and he showed me what these cars could really do. And let me tell you, that was INSANE! (So much so that I nearly lost my lunch) I fancy myself a good driver, but these guys are on a whole other level.
I have always had a soft spot for the Abarths, and this track experience just reinforced my love affair with these Italians. They’re the total package, with classic looks, great performance, and exhaust notes like no other. And best of all, they won’t break the bank, with starting prices in the low 20’s. You’d be hard pressed to find a better bang for the buck.
Thanks to Fiat and Skip Barber Racing School for a great day at the track!
Photos courtesy of The SB Image
The 335HP Ford Edge ST Is The Perfect Choice For Enthusiasts With Kids
When Ford first announced plans for a 335-horsepower performance SUV that would wear the iconic ST badge, I was.. surprised, as I didn’t see much of a market for a souped-up Ford Edge. Turns out, I was looking at it from the wrong perspective.
The majority of my friends with kids have SUVs or crossovers. According to them, it’s a must, as they need the extra room to shuttle their kids (and their friends) around to soccer practice. While many of them are gearheads who would love to drive something fun like a Mustang GT or Focus RS, “life” forced them to choose something more practical.
Enter the new 2019 Ford Edge ST, a potent yet practical crossover SUV that delivers the best of both worlds, satisfying your need for speed while passing the wife test. The first SUV from Ford Performance, the Edge ST builds upon last year’s Edge Sport, with a 2.7-liter twin turbo V6 that puts out 335 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque (an increase of 20HP and 30 lb-ft).
Coupled with a quick-shifting eight-speed transmission and a lower final drive ratio, the 2019 Edge ST rockets from 0-60 in 5.9 seconds, with a top speed of 130mph. That’s actually quicker than the Fiesta ST or Focus ST, which is really impressive given its size. And if you’re able to keep your foot out of it, the Edge ST returns a respectable 19 mpg / 26 mpg (city/hwy), thanks in part to Ford’s Intelligent AWD with AWD Disconnect system.
Ford recently brought us out to Park City, Utah to test out the 2019 Ford Edge ST, setting us loose on some winding roads up through the mountains, giving us a chance to put the SUV’s performance chops to the test. In a word.. impressive!
The ’19 Ford Edge ST gets going in a hurry, and shifts through the eight-speed automatic are absolutely seamless. Acceleration is so smooth and linear, it’s easy to think the car has a CVT. Switch into Sport mode, and the car is transformed even further, holding gears longer, with more aggressive shifts, and some added “noise” piped into the cabin.
As you might expect, the Edge ST suspension is retuned, with new shocks, firmer springs, and a thicker sway bar all working together to improve the car’s handling. The slow things down, the brakes get substantial upgrades as well. If that’s not enough, there’s even an optional ST performance brake package that takes things up another notch.
To show us just how capable the Edge ST is, Ford put together a tight autocross course for us to drive, where it performed incredibly well despite its larger size. Respect.
Visually, all 2019 Edge’s gets new front and rear styling, with the ST getting a wide mesh grille for optimal cooling, deep side skirts and dual-exhaust outlets. Unique 21-inch wheels are available (20-inch wheels are standard), with gloss black treatment that perfectly highlight the red calipers behind them. Inside, there’s an ST-specific instrument cluster, heavily bolstered seats to keep you in place, and gloss black and carbon fiber-style trim.
Technology has always been Ford’s strong suit, and they deliver it in spades in the Edge ST. Ford’s Co-Pilot360 safety technology package is standard, giving drivers forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, a lane-centering system, auto high beams and a backup camera standard. And the Edge ST keeps you connected with things like Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, Amazon Alexa integration (“Alexa, start my car”), and more.
With a starting price of $43,350 (and a fully optioned model coming in at around $55K), the 2019 Ford Edge ST isn’t exactly cheap. But there’s really nothing else out there quite like it, and we think enthusiasts who have a growing family and want something a little edgier than the status quo will be drawn to the ST.
Overall, I think the 2019 Ford Edge ST is a fun yet practical performance vehicle that checks off all the boxes, and I think it’s going to be a hot seller for the Blue Oval.
What do you think of the 2019 Ford Edge ST?
There’s No Better Car To Relive Your Youth Than The Camaro Hot Wheels Edition
Did you know that the first Hot Wheels car ever sold was a dark blue “Custom Camaro”, which went on sale on May 18, 1968? And that every generation (and nearly every variation) of the Camaro has been replicated in 1:64 scale by Hot Wheels?
So it should come as no surprise that Chevrolet and Hot Wheels partnered to celebrate their 50 year anniversary with an actually life-size Hot Wheels Camaro, the 2018 Camaro Hot Wheels 50th Anniversary Edition, which looks like it rolled right off of the orange track and onto the streets. And as soon as I laid eyes on this bad boy, I felt like a kid again!
Now, this was no ordinary review loaner for me. Instead, I was driving the Hot Wheels Camaro to Camp No Counselors, a summer camp for adults. Because what’s a better combination than driving a life-sized version of a toy sports car, and a weekend at sleepaway camp to relive your youth, right? And the 400-mile trip would give me plenty of time to evaluate the car.
When the car arrived, I was immediately smitten with the exclusive Orange Crush paint, which photos just don’t do justice. Now all of that orange would be too much by itself, but the satin graphite stripe (with silver ice metallic accents), satin graphite ground effects, and the black Chevrolet bowtie emblems help break things up and complete the look.
Inside, it’s more of the same, with a Jet Black leather-appointed interior with orange inserts and orange accent stitching. The suede-wrapped steering wheel has orange accent stitching and a Hot Wheels 50th Anniversary badge. The floor mats have orange stitching and ghost stripes, and orange knee bolsters and seat belts complete the look. While it’s a lot of orange, they somehow pull off the look without looking tacky.
Our 2018 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Hot Wheels Edition came equipped with a 6.2L V8 that puts out an incredible 455 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque. The LT1 engine is something else, capable of propelling our orange missile from 0-60 in 4 seconds flat. But keep your eyes peeled for cops, as this car is anything but inconspicuous.
It also sounds the part, with an exhaust note that gave me goosebumps anytime I went wide open throttle with it (when passing other cars on the highway). Sure, those WOT romps will cost you in the gas department, but driving back home on cruise control, we managed to get an impressive 25.3 miles per gallon.
While an early rain storm got our car dirty in a hurry, that didn’t stop people from gawking at our car as we drove by, a child-like look of wonder and amazement on their faces. Clearly, Chevrolet and Hot Wheels knocked it out of the park in the styling department.
That said, it takes quite an extroverted person to drive this car given the amount of attention it gets. Personally, I think the car is awesome, and if I were in the market for a Camaro, I’d definitely pony up the extra $4,995 for the Hot Wheels package. It looks like you’re driving around in a life-sized Hot Wheels, turning that childhood fantasy into reality.
Overall, it was a pretty awesome weekend, reliving my youth at sleepaway camp, and driving around in a life-sized Hot Wheels car, making those “Vroom Vroom” sounds for real with the gas pedal, instead of with my mouth. 🙂
What do you think of the 2018 Camaro Hot Wheels 50th Anniversary Special Edition?
The 2018 Subaru BRZ tS Is Exclusive Awesomeness
We recently got to spend a week the 2018 Subaru BRZ tS, a special edition model of the little driver-oriented sport coupe, of which only 500 are being made. The verdict? Run out and get one before it’s too late!
Slip behind the wheel and it doesn’t take long to get amorous about the Subaru BRZ. The little car becomes fun quickly, with its ready-for-action appeal and genuine love of the road. While the naysayers will deride it for not having a turbocharged engine or “more power” in general, the rest of us see that this entry-level sport coupe is phenomenally awesome.
For the 2018 Subaru BRZ tS, Subaru dialed things up a notch, incorporating some fast-paced tuning from the company’s STI performance division.
The most noticeable addition to the BRZ is a large carbon fiber aero wing sitting on inverted V-shaped brackets. Those braces can be tuned to angle the spoiler for various performance tweaks, should you be headed to the track. Adding additional downforce at certain speed ranges, in corners, etc. is possible through those adjustments.
Larger wheels are also obvious on the BRZ tS model, as are added side skirts. Those 18-inch wheels are the largest yet on any Subaru BRZ and accommodate Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires that are measured at 215/40 (thin wall, wide track). The additional side skirts are the visible part of several aerodynamic tweaks made to the BRZ tS for added slipperiness in the wind.
The chassis of the 2018 BRZ tS now sports SACHS dampers and coil springs tuned by STI for the car. Flexible V-braces in the engine compartment add rigidity to the car. Draw stiffeners for the chassis and subframe have the same affect. Also of note are the Brembo brakes added to boost stopping power and reduce brake fade under heavy usage.
Inside, the 2018 Subaru BRZ tS is very similar to the BRZ Limited model, but with added tS and STI logos on the seats plus the STI hallmark of red seatbelts.
The powertrain for the little 2018 Subaru BRZ tS remains the same as it does in other versions of the sport coupe. The 2.0-liter boxer-style four puts out 205 honest horsepower and the six-speed manual transmission (in the tS, available in most other trims) exhibits short throws and a very positive clutch. It’s easy to fall in love with the tS, with its on-the-road feel and active driving engagement.
It’s also easy to get the BRZ tS to turn sideways almost at will.. Especially on a dirt surface. Jerking the wheel one way then the next usually results in some drift. Practice will make this easy. On pavement, more finesse is necessary to elicit the same response, but it can be done. All without turbos or complicated braking techniques. The Subaru BRZ tS loves curve carving, sharp corner drifting, and is a perfect learner car for heel-toe engagement.
The 2018 Subaru BRZ tS has a starting price of $33,495 and has three exclusive color options to match its STI roots. Toyota will offer similar enhancements to the BRZ’s twin, the Toyota 86, next year as the 86 TRD Special Edition.
What do you think of the 2018 Subaru BRZ tS?